The Prince, written by Niccolo Machiavelli, in 1513, attempts to explain the role a prince must play. In The Prince, Machiavelli gave advice by referring to leaders of the past to point out how they handled situations and learned from their mistakes so that those mistakes would not be repeated. Machiavelli wrote that "a prudent man must always tread the path of great men and imitate those who have excelled." # In The Prince, Machiavelli discussed how a prince should play his role by defining the actions a prince should take, and the personality characteristics he should have. What are the actions that a prince should take and why must he behave in the manner that Machiavelli described? Machiavelli gave advice to princes on how to play their role to achieve success.
Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli wrote of specific actions a prince should take in certain circumstances. One of these actions concerned when a prince gains more land to rule. Machiavelli wrote that the prince should live in that newly gained territory and observe their language, laws, and customs. By observing the culture the prince gains insight into the actions he should take to control the people.
Also by living on his new territory, he can control the people immediately when a problem arises. Another reason a prince should live in the territory would be to reduce the fear of enemies attacking. Machiavelli wrote that enemies are less likely to attack the territory when a prince is living there. # Even though the prince should take this precaution against war, according to Machiavelli, war is inevitable. Therefore, it is necessary to command wisely to remain the ruler of the land.
Machiavelli advised princes to protect their land by utilizing armies, moats, walls, and artillery. He wrote that the prince should keep a supply of provisions within the walls, so when under siege, the city could live off of their provisions and survive. In addition to advising princes to proper actions in war, Machiavelli advised princes to study the land. The prince should then teach his army what the land is like in different regions. His army would then know how to survive in the hills, mountains, marshes, and rivers. Also by learning about various types of land, the army can better defend their own land and understand the land of their enemies to make stronger attacks.
In every situation, a prince should strategize what he would do so that he would know how to properly command his army. Also to protect his land, Machiavelli wrote that a prince should lead and protect the weaker lands around his, but he should attempt to weaken the stronger lands, because if they become too strong they could take over his land. Most importantly, the prince should seek to gain allies. # The more allies a prince had, the less chance there was for war. Machiavelli also advised princes in monetary matters. He wrote that a prince should not pay the soldiers from tax money, but should let them collect their pay by plundering fields, houses, and other materials.
In this way, it would not cost the prince anything to have an army. The people whose possessions are plundered are poor and only make up a small percentage of the population, so they cannot fight back. Machiavelli also wrote that a prince must strictly command his army to gain their respect. # Once the army's respect was gained, the soldiers would willingly obey the prince, leading to a stronger more unified army.
Machiavelli advised princes to set up a system of monarchy, that is, the prince is the only one in charge of the whole kingdom and everyone else is his servant. Machiavelli explained that if some people are given authority and gain power, they may overthrow the prince, thus the prince should not give any authority to anyone. Machiavelli even stated that a prince should destroy leaders who may overtake the throne, whether in his own kingdom or a neighboring kingdom. On the other hand, Machiavelli also wrote that a prince should not be hated by his people, but should win their favor. If the majority of the people hate their prince, they could overthrow the prince, so the prince should take all procedures to win the people's favor.
# Besides writing about specific actions a prince should take to keep and control his land, Machiavelli gave advice on what personality characteristics a prince should have. He stressed that it is important to keep up appearances and reputation, because that is how the majority of the people see and judge the prince. Machiavelli wrote that to the public's eye, a prince should appear compassionate, moral, devout, merciful, religious, faithful, humane, frank, and friendly. Machiavelli also stated that a prince should appear to be strong, great, and bold, but should not be fickle, frivolous, effeminate, cowardly, or irresolute.
However Machiavelli believed that for a prince to lead effectively, he must be the opposite of his public appearance. He should fight, be ruthless and harsh, defiant of religion, study war, and take evil actions if necessary to keep his land. All of these characteristics should be kept from the public's eye. In The Prince, Machiavelli counseled that a prince or ruler "interested in his survival learn to be other than good... according to need." # It is necessary when gaining land, going to war, and setting up a government system that a Machiavellian leader chooses the actions laid out in The Prince. It is through these actions that a leader will be able to keep and effectively rule his land.
Above all it is vital that a ruler appears moral for "men judge by the eye rather than the hand." # But in difficult situations a ruler must be willing to compromise his perceived morality, if by doing so the outcome would be positive. In any case, it is better to be successful and ruthless, than to be of good character and fail.